The Rostrum Records CEO, Benjy Grinberg, believes the independent music scene is more important than ever. Grinberg has been a fixture of the music industry since the early-2000s and believes the pandemic of 2020 and 2021 has shown the power of independent artists.
There has always been an indie music sector that has been popular for several decades. In 2018, Chance the Rapper changed the music industry when he became the first artist to win a Grammy without selling physical copies of his Coloring Book album.
A More Creative Process
One of the reasons for the growth of the independent music sector has been the loss of creative control when signed to a major label. The history of independent music is filled with artists who have found their voice when being allowed to work without interference. Rolling Stone points to the number of rapers releasing music independently as a sign of the changing times.
Grinberg and other non-traditional label owners are providing a home for artists who want to explore their creativity. In the past, the number of artists signed to large record labels who feel they have lost creative control of their work is large. As far back as the late-1990s, Prince spent several years extracting himself from an oppressive recording contract.
Keeping Their Profits
Since the start of the streaming sector in the early-200s, the chatter from the music industry has been about the lack of profits available. The problem for artists signed to record labels is they see their streaming profits slashed by their label. An artist signed to a label is usually handed an advance on their earnings and must pay for the use of the label’s professionals. By the time the label has taken its share of streaming profits, the artist is left with 20 percent.
An example of the problems caused by record labels taking large shares of the streaming royalties is the success of Lil Uzi Vert. The rapper is estimated to have made $8 million from a single successful song placed on top streaming sites. By the time his record label had taken their share of the streaming royalties, he was left with only $2 million in royalty payments.
Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit
By taking control of their creativity, musicians can enhance their own careers and become entrepreneurs. Looking back on the history of the music sector, Obscure Sound reveals The Beatles and Elvis Presley felt they had to take control by forming their own labels.
Becoming an entrepreneur may not be high on the list of ambitions for independent artists, but the satisfaction of taking control of every aspect of their career can become a driving force behind an artist. Benjy Grinberg is an advocate for artists asserting their independence and operates Rostrum Records in a non-traditional way. For Grinberg, seeing artists signed to his label take control and drive on to a bright future is important.
Maintaining the Rights to Master Copies
The problems faced by successful artist, Taylor Swift when it comes to the master copies of her music are well known. Without Swift’s permission, the rights to her early albums were sold by her label in a move that prompted a fierce backlash.
Swift has returned to the albums in question and rerecorded them with new arrangements to eliminate the recordings in question from her back catalog. Independent artists who choose to release their own music are left in control of their music and have full creative control over their future. To avoid the misuse of the songs of an artist, retaining control over the rights is key to maintaining credibility.
Uploading Music Immediately
There are several reasons why Grinberg believes the new voices releasing independent music are important. Among these is the fact music can be released immediately and ride the wave of popularity. Independent releases have become fashionable in the U.K. and Europe because they offer a chance to get the music to fans as quickly as possible.
The arrival of new music genres, such as the U.K.’s Grime scene, rise and fall in popularity quickly. Artists working in these sectors are hoping to reach their fans and followers quickly. Traditional record labels are not equipped to provide support for a fast turnaround for the work of their artists.
Avoiding the Problems of Other Artists
In the 1990s and early-2000s, artists aimed to raise their profile and sign to a major label. Being signed to a major label was seen as a badge of honor for artists as they moved forward with their careers. Around half of those who signed with major labels were never heard from again and failed to release any music to the public.
Benjy Grinberg believes this was a problem and believes remaining independent would have benefitted many artists who failed to find success. For Grinberg, avoiding the pitfalls of other artists is part of finding success in the music industry in the 21st-century.
Independent voices are important in the music industry because they drive the creativity of the sector. Social media platforms and streaming services offering direct access to independent artists are allowing fans to find their own favorites outside the traditional record labels.